August 23- In the absence of any action on the track for a month, the world of Formula One has instead been sidetracked by an unseemly spat between two of its household names.
The war of words between Ferrari and three-time world champion Niki Lauda seems all the more cheap and unnecessary given the Austrian won two of his titles with the Italian team in the 1970’s and was a decade later appointed to a consultancy role by current Ferrari chairman Luca Di Montezemolo.
The controversy was sparked by the continuing fall out from the German Grand Prix, when Ferrari appeared to instruct their Brazilian driver Felipe Massa, who was leading the race, to allow teammate Fernando Alonso, in second, to overtake him.
The actual words used by Ferrariâ€™s race engineer Rob Smedley over the radio were as follows: “Fernando is faster than you. Can you confirm you understand?” Seconds later, Massa slowed down, Alonso moved into the lead and the Spaniard went on to take the checkered flag.
Team orders have been forbidden in Formula One since 2002, a law introduced after too many seasons were influenced by manipulation from the pit lane which often, ironically, involved multiple world champion, and then Ferrari number one driver, Michael Schumacher and a succession of obedient number two’s.
But at the Hockenheim circuit Ferrari clearly ignored that ruling according to those in charge, a fact reflected in their $100,000 fine â€“ the maximum race stewards can impose â€“ and the referral of the case to the FIA. The fact the sportâ€™s ruling body decided not to hear the case until early September means accusations and counter claims are still being thrown by all sides, a full month after the event.
All of which leads us to Laudaâ€™s interview with the official Formula One website, where he expressed his view that Ferrari had acted â€œagainst all rulesâ€ in Germany, and were â€œmocking the fansâ€ for seemingly orchestrating the result. He also said the Italians could expect a â€œpastingâ€ when the hearing in Paris finally gets underway.